Last year, well maybe even a year and a half ago, I got on bread making kick. In my making, I was determined to venture away from the bread machine and using any form of store bought yeast. Excuse me you say? How does one make bread without fast rising or traditional yeast? Well, I ventured into the world of sourdough bread. Yes indeed the bread that made San Francisco famous with all it's yummy goodness.
My first and foremost reason for wanting to make sourdough was that (I suspect) my oldest and I have some form of gluten intolerance, though we have yet to be tested my logic tells me that decreasing gluten in our diet can only help. Secondly, in all my bread reading sourdough has excellent health benefits which you can read about here, here, here, and pretty much anywhere else on the internet, just google "sourdough health benefits". Armed with reasons & readings, my foray into sourdough was as naive as would be expected considering I had zero experience with wild fermented yeast. That deserves a whole post of it's own but googling "sourdough troubles" will also do the trick.
I started making my sourdough starter with this recipe, which is from Peter Reinhart. In my experience, whole wheat starter never worked that great for me. Instead I have found more success with a starter that combines unbleached white and rye. I won't get into too much of the fundamentals because really there is so much information out there about sourdough and depending on where you live sourdough is just as much about trial as it is error. For example, my sister and I both live in the same city & make sourdough yet our proofing times are different from each other. Strange but true. Speaking of sisters, let me give a shout out to my big sis' here because she "got" sourdough way faster than I did and was making beautiful loaves early on. She would even gift me a loaf here and there when my sourdough failures were starting to get to me.
And yes, there were failures, I felt a bit like Thomas Edison when he was working at the light bulb. I would estimate discovering 40-50 different ways not to make sourdough bread. But hey, I'm patient, I have the time, how hard can this be right? Meanwhile my mum could be found sitting on my shoulder like a little cartoon character (we won't mention which one) saying "I would just give up on that thing if I were you..." Ha! Nothing like a little mum speak to stir up the stubborness, and so I pressed on.
Fast forward to today: the Sourdough and I have been making our peace and I am no longer making bricks. I am finding the balance between starter, bulk fermenting, and proofing times and all that sourdough lingo. Even my last loaf obeyed the laws of bread form when it spilled out onto the stone in perfect loaf shape and baked to perfection. My kids can attest to my excitement level when they heard me screaming like a crazy woman over my proofed loaf . "I have conquered...muhahaha..." (hint: remember Tom Hanks in Cast Away after he made fire). Umm yeah, right now you might be thinking too many hours "baked" in the kitchen. Indeed! Well, whatever it takes I say.
Fyi: the last 3 photos are of recent sourdough loaves and a pretty consistent representation of my results. I no longer use a loaf pan for baking, only for proofing & shaping. The round loaves you see are proofed in circular bowls. The loaves are tranferred to baking stone and the end result is the lightest texture. Very yummy! This is my favourite recipe for sourdough, I subsitute rye flour for some of the white but keep my measurements the same. Her website is a fantastic resource for all things sourdough.